Social Support in Stepfamily Worlds
Chapter Two. Fathers, Stepfathers, and Support
← 8 | 9 → • CHAPTER TWO •
Fathers, Stepfathers, and Support
This chapter paints a picture, in broad strokes, of what we know about fathers and stepfathers with an eye to understanding what support means and how it is communicated to their children. The chapter includes a description of the relational view of communication, the theoretical framework that I used to help understand communication and support among these family members, as well as the research framework and methods I used in this study.
Fathering and Stepfathering
Existing studies of fathers and stepfathers support four basic claims. First, fathering or stepfathering is not an independent activity but occurs within a web of other relationships. Second, research suggests that the more effort a father or stepfather puts into his relationship with his child, the more he gets out of it for himself and for his children. Third, fathering and stepfathering are somewhat different kinds of activities. And, fourth, communication is key in creating and sustaining stepfather-stepson relationships.
Stepfathering as a Relational Act
It is important to remember that fathering or stepfathering is not an autonomous act but a relational one. Palkovitz (2002) reminds us that the term “father”—and by extension stepfather—is inherently relational: “A father is only a father in relation to a child” (p. 3). The primary, traditional, and widely accepted distinguishing feature between a father and a stepfather is biology. The term “father” typically implies, at a minimum, a...
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